“It’s beautiful,” we both enthuse on first seeing the country cottage we had always dreamt of. We had driven through a wooded lane and crossed an attractive bridge, the river shimmering in the sunlight as we drove towards the village. At an almost giveaway price we manage to romantically overlook the cobwebs which seem to cover the entire house (the spiders I would terrifyingly encounter) and the large damp patch on the lounge floor.
“We can make this room look great,” we said, with the evident pride of owners. Of course our experience of builders and insect poison was quite limited at that point but would later become extensive. Again we ignored the creaking doors, never imagining that at some time in the future our magical home would have the power to lock us in at will. We never for one moment saw our cottage as a miniature Amityville horror. How easily we deceive ourselves. Friendly village folk smiled and greeted us warmly as we walked across the village green and had a drink in what we already regarded as our local. We thought how quaint and peaceful it was to have no shops, or street lights. Oh, the pleasure of seeing the stars at night. The primary school, next door wouldn’t be a problem we decided, in fact the sound of children’s laughter would bring us much joy. However, three months on and sticky finger marks on our fence coupled with tiny heads stuck through our railings changed our view somewhat and now, some days I am inclined to favour the idea of our predecessor, which was to chop off their little fingers but I digress and should go back. At that moment we fell in
love, even though we knew the whole house needed damp proofing, and dry rot had to be treated, we were not perturbed. The survey report should have swayed us but it didn’t. We would get everything done, it might take some time but in the end it would look wonderful and as we browsed through house and home magazines every night our confidence grew.
Eventually we would be able to rent it as a holiday home, paying for our own summer holiday. Ah, that was ten years ago. We moved in as partners and married eight years later. Our wedding was held in the garden and the reception on the village green, moving a bit later into the local. But it was not always like this!
We moved in on New Year’s Eve amidst a screaming match. We couldn’t move for furniture as Andrew had chosen to use a ‘man and van’ (who dumped all our belongings into one room and abandoned us to rush to his next job) I could see no end in sight, in fact I couldn’t even see the blooming front door at that moment and stressed as much to Andrew in just a few four letter words. He stressed me more by remaining calm, of course. We finally ambled across to the local pub for a calming drink to find, an invitation only, New Year’s Eve party in full swing. More tears followed before we ambled back, shivering and depressed. A few days later we began working on the house. The first hurdle was the floorboards in the bedroom. No matter how hard we tried the boards would not be sanded. They were too old and badly damaged and the sander kept breaking
‘A hundred pounds wasted on hiring a sander’ I shouted and another row followed as I demanded carpets and he argued to keep the original floorboards. I hate to admit he was right after all. Eventually we got down on our hands and knees to scrub and varnish them ourselves. Of course it would be at these times that the friendly village folk would choose to visit.
“Just say if you need anything?” they would offer as I struggled to rub the paint from my face and hide behind my paint streaked, oversized, holey jumper.
“It’s nice to have some young people in the village” they said struggling not to grimace at the sight of our cottage, which resembled a holocaust inside and a building site outside. The realisation that we were the ‘young people’ sent warning bells about our future social life. Never the less we battled on. I had a near breakdown during a wood lice invasion and it somehow erupted in me throwing a glass of water over Andrew. The memory of this eludes me now… For days our lounge was inundated with loft insulation and I waged a constant daily battle with dust but dust eventually won. Finally, one day, something positive. Our sleigh bed was to be delivered at nine on a Friday morning. It actually arrived at five in the afternoon but I was so excited I overlooked the long wait. At last, our long-awaited comfortable night was here, but we were wrong again. The delivery men looked at our stairs made one half-hearted effort to carry the headboard up and then declared in a bored tone.
“That bed won’t go up there.’
We stared at one another. Oh for pity’s sake.
‘What about the mattress?’ I asked. Our lovely comfortable and very expensive temper mattress.
‘I know all about these things, that mattress will never go up them stairs.” he said knowingly.
‘But if you heat it with a hair dryer it will bend in half,’ said my knowledgeable Andrew.
‘Excuse me mate, what makes you think I carry a hairdryer on the van?’ retorted the other delivery man.
The next thing we knew they had driven off in a cloud of dust with us looking on despondently. I could cry, two thousand pounds down the drain.
“You can choose something else,” the manager of the furniture shop said, but we didn’t want anything else. Therefore, he informed us, we would get our money back minus six hundred pounds for restocking.
“Six hundred pounds! They can bring it back then and I’ll saw the headboard off if I have to. But they will get it up the stairs.” my loving partner declared. I was close to tears, my beautiful bed driven back to the warehouse and next it seemed it was to be sawn to bits. How much could a woman take? Our cottage looked like it had been desecrated, with carpets torn from floors and rubble piling up in my lounge as a fireplace was demolished.
“It will be great when we get back to the original two hundred year old fireplace” Andrew would enthuse. I would nod and think, oh, to live in a normal house.
But there were good moments and still are. Like when we actually did get the bed in. And yes, some neighbours are friendly. The professors next door seems to live in a cloud of smoke, all literary and romantic and seem to permanently sip whisky and find it very decadent to recline in their night-clothes all day. The milkman delivers milk and anything else we need, and oh yes, blessed of all things, the mobile library comes to the village green every Wednesday but I always miss it.
Then, of course, there is the story of Mick, our first builder and the missing plums bag. How I spent a good fifteen minutes looking for a bag of plums when in fact he had lost a Plumbs bag. Something very different indeed and nothing whatsoever to do with fruit. But Mick was the discoverer of our inglenook, so I quickly forgave him. Then of course there was the day we dramatically crossed off our new home list the entry, ‘Buy a dog’ This all came about after one of our neighbours invited us for drinks and their dog almost snapped our hands off when we went to enjoy the nuts that were presumably for us. Not to mention much crotch sniffing which put me off dogs for life.
Bendy and Iris
We, instead, opted for two kittens. Bendy is still with us. Sadly Iris we lost after her first litter.I run a mile whenever I see this particular neighbour and her dog. Also of course there was the day I got locked in my own bathroom due to the decrepit state of the door and had to scream from the window for someone to help me.
But we are still together? Is life in a village as friendly as one imagines? Is everyone popping into everyone else’s house? Well, we are still together, apart from the odd storming out of the house episodes. As we speak, the war on ants and wood lice continues, although at times I think the poison is killing me. But overall, life in a village is great.